One of the most accomplished basketball player outside of the NBA in terms of the awards, championships and impact he has made for every team he has played for so far in Europe, the 31 year old former high jumper Marcus Brown represents the best case scenario for American tweeners everywhere.
Brown spent four years at Murray State in the Ohio Valley conference, being one of the top scorers in the country in his two finals seasons while averaging 26.7 points in his senior year on 50% shooting from the field and 42% shooting from behind the arc. Following his senior year in 1996, he was drafted 46th in the 2nd round by the Portland Trailblazers where he averaged 4 pts and 2 assists in 9 minutes per game while shooting 41% from behind the arc in his rookie season. His play as a rookie was enough to impress the Vancouver Grizzlies, and after a successful summer league campaign he managed to garner a contract from the expansion team. The Grizzlies were terrible that season, and Brown was cut midway through the year after not even playing a minute. From there he went to France to join Pau Orthez in February, where he quickly familiarized himself with European basketball and helped them win the French Championship while scoring 20 points per game, but also tore his ACL in the final game of the playoffs.
After taking that entire season off to rehab his knee, Brown went to summer league that following summer and earned a spot in the NBA once again, this time with the Detroit Pistons. With the Pistons starting off the season poorly, Brown was cut once again after only six games and 45 minutes in the league that year. Back to France it was for him, where he once again won the French championship (this time with Limoges,) while picking up the European Korac Cup, the French Cup and MVP of the French league along the way. At that point the heavy hitters of European basketball started to take notice of his play and he was signed to a contract by European powerhouse Benetton (then Pallacanestro) Treviso in Italy. There Brown averaged over 20 points per game in the Euroleague and helped his team to the Top 16.
Not one to stay in one place for too long, Brown was signed by one of the best teams in Europe at the team, Efes Pilsen in Turkey for the next two seasons. Brown dominated his competition in Turkey and helped his team to two straight championships to go along with two straight MVP awards for himself as well. In between those two seasons in Turkey, Brown tried out for the Utah Jazz in summer league and did not make the team.
After that Brown was signed by probably the richest and most ambitious team in all of Europe, CSKA Moscow. He stayed there for another two years, helping his team to reach the Euroleague Final Four in both years, winning the Russian Championship and Cup in both years, and being named the MVP of the Russian league in both years as well, bringing his MVP count to five and his championship total to six in seven seasons in Europe.
For his trouble, Brown became the highest paid player in all of Europe last season. While his representatives would only state that he signed for a lot of money, sources in Europe indicate that his contract was worth no less than three million dollars, an incredible sum for any player in any league. The only player that ever even came close to making that type of money was Dominque Wilkens when he came to play in Greece for Panathinaikos for one year. Brown was bought out of the last year of his contract in Russia after they failed to win the Euroleague and a new coach was brought in. From what we understand the feeling was mutual.
Despite the fact that he will have to take a huge pay cut in order to do so, Brown is looking to take one last stab at the NBA before he is too old to try again. According to his agent Craig McKenzie, Brown is currently fielding offers from three different NBA teams that made the playoffs last year. He will not play in summer league, and is only looking for a guaranteed contract offer. While this is our own personal speculation, its possible that a winning team that can offer him an opportunity to come off the bench and bring athleticism, outside shooting, energy and defense for 15 minutes or so a night can get him for the minimum. Since Brown already played in the NBA for a couple of years, his minimum scale salary would be around 750,000$. Exact numbers will only be known once the new CBA is agreed upon, signed and published. If not, Brown will go back overseas and play for a boatload of cash once again for one of the top teams in Europe.
As a former high jumper, you can imagine that Marcus Brown has some explosiveness to his game. He is indeed one of the more athletic players in Europe that also combine excellent basketball skills with raw explosiveness. He is also strong and fearless going to the hoop, not backing down from anyone and showing the confidence of a player who has been the man on every team he has played for in his basketball career besides his two NBA adventures. He is a strong ball-hander as well. All those things combined, his athleticism, strength, ball-handling and tenaciousness make him an outstanding slasher at any level. When he gets to the line he shoots 90% or more. Brown indeed loves to put the ball on the floor and take it strong to the hoop, showing some ability on the drive and dish as well. On top of that he is a solid shooter, although a bit streaky at times, who has shot well over 40% from behind the arc in his European career. He can catch and shoot or make it off the dribble thanks to a fairly quick release. At the end of the day, Brown is a scorer, and a very accomplished one at that. He has some NBA experience and has been one of the best American players in Europe over the past four years or so, playing and winning at the highest levels basketball has to offer outside the NBA. Defensively he can hold his own as well thanks to his strength and quickness.
Hes your prototypical shooting guard caught in a point guards body. He can probably bring the ball up the floor and start up your offense, but he is certainly not a lead guard. With that comes all the questions we always have about undersized shooting guards. Who will they guard? Can they get their shot off at the same level of success against strong and athletic 6-6 NBA shooting guards? Can he adapt to being a role player in the league rather than a high volume shooting superstar in Europe? Most of his strengths in Europe lie in the fact that he is so much stronger and more athletic than whoever is guarding him, not to mention his talent level which is extremely high. These are questions that can only be answered on an individual case by case basis. Brown seems to want to play in the NBA, which means that he would be willing to sacrifice (certainly from a financial perspective) to do so. At age 31, this is probably Brown's last chance to stick in the NBA, and he probably realizes that.
Why Sign Him?
When you have such a talented and accomplished player who is willing to come to the NBA for pennies on the dollar and adapt his game for a winning team, the risk involved in signing him isnt that high considering that he might be had for the minimum. He can be a decent scoring combo guard to bring off the bench for the right team and provide energy, slashing, shooting and defense. If things dont work out for both sides he can always go back to Europe.